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Where is the logic in fresh elections under the same unfair conditions?

As the opposition Citizens Coalition for Change (CCC) struggles to agree on a way forward after the clearly disputed harmonized elections in Zimbabwe – there have been several options thrown around.

In a plebiscite that was widely condemned as nowhere near free, fair and credible by various regional, continental and international observers missions – indeed, common logic would dictate the election results also be thrown out as fraudulent and unacceptable.

No one who wants to be honest with himself can fail to reach the same conclusion – considering how the electoral process was all but rubbished by SADC, AU-COMESA, the Commonwealth, as well as the EU and Carter Centre.

The question now is: which direction should the opposition CCC – who were the main victims of this discredited sham of an election – take?

Originally, the popular route was challenging the presidential election results in the courts – whereby, ZANU PF’s Emmerson Dambudzo Mnangagwa was declared the winner by ZEC (Zimbabwe Electoral Commission) with 52.6 percent, whilst his closest rival Nelson Chamisa of the CCC garnering 44 percent.

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This alternative was a bit tricky, since, in order to win their case – that the figures announced by ZEC were flawed – the challengers have to produce enough evidence, which is beyond any reproach.

In doing this, they need to provide all the V11 forms (which show election results at polling station level) for each and every polling station which was used during the 23rd and 24th August plebiscite.

Where this route can be tricky is in that, there is a very high likelihood that the CCC actually does not have in their possession all the V11 forms.

This could be because the opposition did not have polling agents at each of the 12,370 polling stations in the country – or, their agents were threatened not to submit these to the party.

Either way, without all the 12,370 V11 forms, there can be no way of proving their allegations in a competent court of law – which are the basis in challenging the tallies of the number of votes cast for each candidate.

So far, the CCC has not come out, convincingly, with any evidence that they actually have these forms.

The second, and most recent, proposed route was pushing for the entire election to be declared null and void.

This entails rejecting all the results – local ward, parliamentary and presidential – thereby, demanding a re-run of the elections.

According to the CCC, these new polls should be under the supervision of a ‘neutral’ body – such as SADC, the AU or UN.

As much as that sounds all well and good – but there is a problem with that thinking.

Let us remember that the main dispute with the recent elections – as has been the case with all the previous ones, spanning two decades – is not necessarily the vote counting and tabulation alone.

The entire electoral process is a huge sham and scandal – a point made unambiguously and unequivocally clear in the various preliminary reports by SADC, AU-COMESA, the Commonwealth, and EU.

It is the process itself that is a problem.

This covers such aspects as the crippling fear instilled in the people of Zimbabwe – most particularly in the rural areas – which has been an ongoing phenomenal since before independence in 1980.

As a result of an over four-decade-long reign of terror and even horrendous atrocities unleashed by the ruling ZANU PF, the ordinary citizenry are now terrified of opposing the party – a fear that is now deeply ingrained in their psyche.

These same communities have also been made to believe – after decades of indoctrination and threats – that their votes were not a secret, since there were ways for figuring out who voted for whom.

The hallmark of any free, fair and credible election is the knowledge and confidence by the electorate of not only their safety, but also secrecy of their choices.

That is why, even in urban areas, very few people dare to speak publicly against the regime – let alone pen the stuff that I write.

Self-censorship has become an everyday aspect of ordinary Zimbabweans’ lives.

They would rather be cautious than sorry.

As such, even under the supervision of SADC, AU, or even the UN – surely, are the people of Zimbabwe going to immediately shed off their fear of ZANU PF, if a fresh election was called today?

We all need to remember that, at the dawn of an independent Zimbabwe, in 1980, the general elections were presided over by the UN – as per the Lancaster House Agreement.

The country was filled with UN personnel, out to ensure a free, fair and credible voting process.

However, that was merely a fallacy.

ZANU (PF) – as it was called then – had already done its homework.

During the latter part of the liberation struggle, the party’s military wing, ZANLA, had taken over numerous areas in rural Zimbabwe – which they referred to as ‘liberated zones’, where they exercised absolute control.

That was when the intimidation began – as the population was threatened with going back to the harrowing days of war, should they not vote for ZANU (PF).

Therefore, in spite of the UN supervising the 1980 general elections – most ordinary people were already shackled by a debilitating fear of ZANU (PF) – such that, they voted for the party anyway, even when there were those who did not particularly support them.

It is common knowledge that, just before independence, PF-ZAPU and its leader Joshua Nkomo were actually more popular that Robert Gabriel Mugabe and ZANU (PF) in most parts of the country.

Yet, after the elections, the latter emerged the victors with 57 seats – whilst the former had 20, with 3 going to Abel Muzorewa’s UANC, and Ian Douglas Smith’s RF getting 20 – in the 100-seat parliament.

What I am saying here is that – once the electorate is trapped in a dungeon of fear, it is quite pointless holding elections, even under the supervision of a ‘neutral’ entity.

What needs to be done first is undo this fear – so that the people genuinely believe that there will never be any unsavory consequences, in the event of voting for the ‘wrong’ party.

As the situation stands today in Zimbabwe, to be brutally honest, the environment is not conducive for truly free, fair and credible elections – regardless who presides over the process.

Even without the shadowy FAZ (Forever Associates Zimbabwe), or ZANU PF itself, or the discredited ZEC – what guarantees are there that the people will feel free to finally vote for whom they truly desire?

What assurances would they have that after the elections – with SADC, AU and the UN gone – ZANU PF will not unleash their customary reign of terror?

If fresh elections are to be announced today, how can anyone be certain that – just as happened in 1980 – ZANU PF, using their usual system of intimidation, will not convince rural communities of violent consequences, if the opposition CCC was voted into power?

I personally believe that Zimbabwe needs new elections – which are, indeed, presided over by an ‘independent and neutral’ body – but this should not be a rushed process.

Let the eagerness for a fresh go at the polls and power not cloud the opposition’s judgement.

If the country is to go back to an election, then this has to be done in a carefully planned process.

My suggestion would be for a 12-month transitional period – with the country under some sort of provisional administration – which can be comprised of respectable and dependable people within Zimbabwe.

These could be technocrats, with the assistance of renowned corporate and religious leaders.

During this 12-month period, electoral laws will have to be aligned with the Constitution and implemented to the letter.

At the same time, our state institutions – as judiciary, the electoral commission, security forces, and media – are depoliticized, and turned into professionally-run organizations, in tandem with their constitutional mandates.

There needs a deliberate program to de-indoctrinate rural communities – whereby they are made to feel safe and confident in our electoral system – understanding that their votes are sacred, secret and will be respected.

Only then can the nation be ready for fresh polls – whose result, no matter who wins, will be acceptable to all.

Nevertheless, holding any new election today would be the height of insanity, and the result will still be disputed.

● Tendai Ruben Mbofana is a social justice advocate and writer. Please feel free to WhatsApp or Call: +263715667700 | +263782283975, or email: [email protected], or visit website: http://mbofanatendairuben.news.blog/